This week, I had a very troubling conversation with a group of young men.
We raised the issue of fear and when it is good to fear. Most of them were convinced that they were fearless and that was the absolute way to be. How many young men would still be alive and free if they would have applied some very basic conflict resolution skills – or what I like to call life skills?
The code of the day seems to be to earn your respect by invoking fear on others through a physically threatening presence and ruthless reputation. There is also a dangerous mindset of living carelessly and sometimes dangerously because, “you only live once.”
Today’s youth see fear as a weakness when actually fear can be a protective force. If you value something, then you fear losing it. The most common responses I get when having these conversations with today’s young people is, “Whatever happens, happens,” or, “If something is going to happen to you it’s gonna happen anyway.” The most popular one is, “When it’s your time, it’s your time.”
This flawed and misleading mindset sends more young people to an early grave or to prison. It demeans the relevance of good decision-making. A more accurate perception is that the choices that you make will determine the quality of your life. To put it simply, if you value your life, then you will not drink and drive, abuse drugs or live a dangerous or a violent lifestyle.
Due to my experience as a child growing up in an environment saturated with senseless violence, I developed a healthy fear for my life. That fear made me a lot more conscious of my surroundings at all times. I became much more selective when choosing who I socialized with and what events I attended.
During my junior year in high school, I was invited to a private house party in a section of Los Angeles that was notorious for gang violence. House party? In what area? “I don’t think so!”
My protective sense inspired me to pass on the party, fearing that the worst thing that could possibly happen probably will. I received a great deal of ridicule from my circle of friends. They thought my refusal to go meant that I was acting like a “punk.” Not falling prey to peer pressure, I stood my ground and passed on the invitation.
Later that evening there was a news flash of a shooting on 54th Street near Crenshaw High School, where several teenagers were shot and killed. I immediately knew that this tragic incident occurred at the very party that I was invited to attend.
When I shared this story with the young men I was working with, they began to share stories of their own of when they made a decision that could have cost them their life or freedom. The example helped them realize that being afraid could actually be a sense of protection. It may also inspire you to consider the consequences of your actions.
If you value your life or life in general, will you live a high-risk lifestyle? Are you disciplined enough to abstain from a dangerous situation even if you may lose favor from your peers?
Adapting a healthy fear, along with a touch of critical thinking, will result in improving your decision-making.
Deon Price is a youth life skills coach and freelance writer who lives in Fairfield. Reach him at Deondprice@yahoo.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.